Wednesday, October 19, 2011

An Old Mate

They call me The Wanderer
Yeah, the Wanderer.
I roam around and around and around.

That's a map of a now infamous walk that I made three years ago. I wrote a post then describing how I had become enthused over my newfound ability to walk (or more properly, walk without stumbling or collapsing). I was so enthused that I roamed parts of my neighborhood that I had never visited.

And with a not-so-precise sense of direction, I mistakenly took a path that led me into the woods and away from home to the suburb next door. Most people who know me thought it was pretty funny - the idea of the fat, newly retired guy huffing and puffing his way through a nature reserve and up what seemed like sheer cliffs but in hindsight are more similar to a modest hill.

Well, I had thought most of you thought it was funny but last week I discovered that an old mate of mine had a distinctly different view.

When I say old, I guess I mean it in just about every sense of the word. Old, in the sense our history goes back a long way; old, in the sense that we haven't had much - if anything - to do in recent years; and old, in that he is definitely getting along in years.

At one time I was quite a good friend of this guy. But in his later years (and probably earlier than that) he got in the habit of going to industry functions and often saying quite a few negative things about me and my company.

I knew him well enough to know that he couldn't help himself. He loved an audience, and he loved acting as if he knew something that no one else did. The problem was that he wasn't on the inside of very much by that stage of his career, and so he repeated gossip (often false stuff dreamed up by our competitors), blew up minor criticisms of our company into major probelms, and generally didn't think about what he was saying.

In America, he could have had a successful career at Fox News, but in Australia he was pretty much limited to the status quo.  The funny thing is that I knew him so well and had heard him do the same thing so often regarding other companies that I didn't blame him. For a man who thought of himself as the Godfather of IT, I knew it was nothing personal, it was just blather.

No Matter. After more than a few reports of things he had said about our company, I decided the best approach would be to stop sharing information with him and just skip the occasional lunch and get-together he and I had had for about 15 years during my last year or two working.

Somewhat regularly, reports would come back. He would be at an industry event and collar one of my staff, asking what had happened to me. Why had I fallen off the face of the earth?  Which was a tough question for them since I hadn't fallen off the face of their earth, only his.

I have now been retired three full years, and I assumed these questions had stopped. But no, some bones are just too tasty for old dogs to leave buried.

A week or two ago my friend Caroline was at an industry event and there was my old mate, still managing to pick up the odd free PR lunch. "Where's Kennedy?" he asked her. He then proceeded to tell her that I had fallen off the face of the earth and no one had any idea where I was.

She explained that she knew very well where I was, that I was alive and well and loving Hobart when we were not wandering around the world.

But is he all right, my old mate continued. He then told her in front of industry peers that he had deep concerns for my mental state. You know, he told her, he went for a walk and got hopelessly lost in his own neighborhood only a block or two from his house. He has obviously decided that the only reason I am not hanging with him any more is that I have early onset Alzheimers.

I don't know how he knew about my earlier post, but I am pretty sure he isn't a regular reader. If he were, he wouldn't need to keep asking what I am doing. It doesn't stop him from letting the folks in my old industry think that I am now wandering around with not the foggiest about where I am going.

I guess if I cared about my reputation in my former industry I probably would have kept in touch with key folks over the past three years. I haven't, and I just assumed I would be fading from memory. Little I did I realize my old mate would be keeping my name alive, but convincing people it was my own memory that was fading. 

I think there are two conclusions here: One, I was surely right to stop hanging around with him when I did. And two, the perfect response to what he is doing is to just forget about it. Which I am happily doing.


Anonymous said...

Some people just don't have a life! Sad really....W & J

Bob said...

Might be able to guess who you're talking about :-)Hope all is well. Rgds Bob